Tuesday, January 16, 2018


I was thinking about W.S. Merwin's poem "For the Anniversary of my Death" this holiday weekend when I returned to the spot where almost exactly two years ago I broke my knee.

"ACL Hill," my skiing partners called it, or "the scene of the crime." It lies below this ridge in a lovely valley near Aspen:

In this case, while I know acutely the significance of the date (January 17), any particular impact blurs under layers of happier memories. I remain thankful for so much -- most recently happy times with friends, enjoying together natural beauty and relative good health.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Talk's not cheap

In our first day back from winter break, students and I dusted off our discussion skills. We created a grab bag (or Frisbee, technically) filled with paper slips on which we'd written "specific topics that people talk about at this time of year." We reviewed different ways to participate in a conversation, which I'd introduced in December -- inspired by Melissa Perlman and A.J. Juliani's discussion game. A random generator picked six students to form a spontaneous discussion group charged with talking for five minutes about one topic they picked while peers observed and later offered fishbowl feedback. Among subjects explored: football, New Year's resolutions, vacation destinations, holiday foods, climate change. Through this process, our awareness sharpened. We started to identify sweet spots where discussions stayed on topic enough while still exploring intriguing tangents, where participants permitted sufficient silence for unexpected ideas to sprout without tumbling irretrievably into dead air, where emerging mindfulness began to outstrip self-consciousness.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What I learned today from Carol, the Forest Service retiree, and what I thought

We tack pheromone tags to certain trees in our National Forests in order to trick a type of invasive beetle into thinking that other beetles have already taken up residence in said trees, thus likely sparing them from a damaging (in fact, fatal) infestation. Hindsight also tells us that had we stewarded the climate better in the first place such bio-chemistry shenanigans may have proven less necessary.

Two simultaneous thoughts occur to me: (1) Our human capacity to create and solve problems both astounds and alarms. (2) Might there be a pheromone flavor that would inoculate middle-school students from bullies?